The Blog

Portraits and ponderings from the writing desk of Jill Foote-Hutton.

Conversations at the Log #2


“You say it’s [your work] is about the material and the mess. Why is that significant? Why is that enough? For the ‘art’ to be about the material and the mess?”

Long pause

“ummmmmmm” laughter

“Now you’re nervous, but aren’t there larger implications?”

“ummmm, does is ‘have’ to be about other stuff?”

“Are there larger implications for you and/in your work?”

“For me and my work?”

“Besides melting stuff……no?”

“I mean there’s nothing political about it.”

“But isn’t it about pushing limits?”

“Yeah,”

“and isn’t there some sort of metaphorical parallel?”

“ummm, just pushing material limits, I’m not…I don’t know…I guess it’s just about experimenting. It’s pretty base.”

“Do you feel like…REALLY? You feel like it’s pretty base?”

“Yeah, I feel like I’m not-

“So you’re a hedonist?”

“-well, I feel like what I do is pretty base. It’s not like I’m trying to change the world, I’m just trying to experiment and push this material.”

“To what end?”

“I don’t really see an end to it, that’s what I like about it so much, is that by pushing one material it draws an interest to another material, and it’s a continual cycle of just wanting to learn about what happens when I put a little bit more of this in until I put way too much in and then I find out something different.”

“And it’s just, that’s enough? That’s it? And the goal, the thing you want to leave is that you pushed feldspar as FAR as it can go?”

laughter

“I mean you’re sort of an art geek aren’t you?”

“yeah, sort of. I’m more of a materials geek I think. I’m more interested in just watching oil drip out of a can.”

“But do you know why?”

“NO [laughter] that’s what I’m trying to figure out.”

“So you want to know why?”

“Yeah, I want to know why. I mean, I think about ‘why’ when I’m making, but I don’t know why. I just know-“

“Now wait. You said you lived with engineers and geologists and the like. There is definitely an end to their questions. There is a means to their ends, but what you are saying is you don’t know what your end is?”

“Yeah, I don’t see an end to the series or the way that the work is progressing. Before I saw an end to the machine objects I was making. I reached this point where I figured out the level of craft, mixed media and all this stuff, and I felt like I had finished it. And I don’t feel like I’ve finished the experimenting?”

“OK, so I could see how something like this work (we were looking at a sculpture by Jessica Jackson Hutchins) relates to what you are interested in, but I don’t really see how you see it as one material.”

“I guess I just sort of see it as this big blob of residue.”

“OK, so then it’s history? Is it a visual poem?”

“hmmmm.”

“How would you help somebody understand this work?”

laughter

“I’m having a hard time understanding it myself!”

much laughter

“I mean it’s tough. It’s a pretty tough blob.”

“Well okay, let’s say you go to grad school, and you get a teaching job and there is an Art Appreciation class on your roster-

laughs, “yeah”

-and you’re like, ‘Dammit’ and then you’ve got, y’know…”

“I probably wouldn’t show this, because I can’t describe it.”

much laughter

“I would talk about shit I know about.”

“Well what would you talk about?”

“I don’t know, I’ve never had to deal with that. I don’t even want to think about that.”

“Okay”

“But for this woman [Jessica Jackson Hutchins] and that piece, definitely more than these pieces. The work with the couch definitely transcends these other works. [Here we are comparing the work “Couple” to the work with the vessel setting on velvet pants in an old chair]

Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Denim Vase, 2009, ceramic, denim, 9 x 7 x 5".

“Yes, I definitely agree this work is a stronger object than the other.”

“Umm, I wouldn’t really know how to. These [the chairs] are way less interesting to me.”

“So it’s the brown chair with velvet pants sewn together holding a ceramic vessel and the other vessel is lined with denim. Earlier it was said that these brought to mind Meret Oppenheim. So, Why are these less interesting? Are they just worse compositionally?”

“Yeah, I think when you are stripping the material down, this basic, she’s sort of losing control of the form on the one with the denim. It’s sort of formless and just a blob with white and blue.”

“Yeah, it looks like bad Ceramics I”

“and, I don’t know, it’s bad in a way that there’s no way of knowing where the control was or where that level of craft was. That’s sort of like the big issue.”

“It’s like when we were talking about your functional work and being able to see the intent.”

“yeah”

“But what’s interesting to me is being able to see in the reviews about her work. The reviewers talk about seeing the intent in it. But do you think that goes back to the New York art world not really knowing…”

“I think that’s the difference between the ceramic world and the art world, and the craft with a capital ‘C’ that hangs over us.”

“Because we can’t look at it without knowing?”

“yeah, We can’t look at it without saying, ‘UGH! I can’t fucking see that! I can’t believe that! Are you kidding me?’ Y’know? We all-technique is EVERYTHING in the ceramic half of the art world.”

“it is”

“and I guess for us who are involved in the ceramic part, we can’t look past the craft or the lack of craft, whatever you want to call it.”

“Do you feel like you have that problem too?”

“Looking past a lack of craft? Oh yeah! Oh yeah! [keep in mind this is a person who classifies his work as a mess] Remember I have a hard time looking at certain pots because of little things that bother me.”

“Well I guess that is true.”

“Little things that are common on a lot of pots. I just can’t handle it.”

“Well, it’s different levels for everybody in regard to that, but why do you think that…Why isn’t Jessica’s work or Arlene Shechet’s work [more largely] recognized by ceramics?”

“I can see Arlene’s work being more recognized in Scandinavia or elsewhere in Europe. Her work reminds me a lot of works that are coming out of Denmark and Sweden.”

“y’know the other day I was talking to a friend and he was saying the conversations that are happening in Denmark are way more theoretical and way more interesting and way beyond any questions of craft that we’re having here. Why is that?”

“because they are better than us?”

laughter

“They’re just better.”

“But there are people here in the states who are interested in those questions too. Is it just about momentum? Is it just about geography?”

“I think they have a lot of history that got them past some of these things or got them to a point where they don’t even give a shit about craft because of all the production potteries they’ve had.”

“So they just did it to death? Do you think we haven’t done it enough yet? Not concentrated enough? Not a collective concentration to get past-

“I don’t think…the way that ceramics was introduced in Europe was such a different way too. They wanted fine china, the porcelain….well I guess there was stoneware, but I think of the European porcelain craze and after that….maybe that wore them out.”

“They wanted a different question?”

“Yeah. They were pushing ideas about sculptural vessels and function and questioning all of these things with Meissen porcelain, so…and we’re still doing that here. You don’t see potters over there just making sculptural vessels. They are way over that.”

“right”

“and I think that’s because of a lot of the history before.”

“But I think a lot of the questions you are asking in your work are way over it too.”

“yeah”